First Aid

Chris Riley by Chris Riley Updated on June 28, 2020. In

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Chapter VIII – Accidents

Section 7 – First Aid

First Aid

boating safety course first aid graphicEvery boater should take an American Red Cross or other approved first aid course. It is not only important for your own personal safety but for your passengers and other boaters you may encounter who need first aid assistance. You should also equip your boat with a first aid kit. This kit should be sufficient to deal with common problems such as sunburn, scrapes, bruises, minor burns, seasickness and bug bites. The following is a minimum inventory of first aid supplies you should carry.

1. First aid manual
2. Adhesive bandages in various sizes
3. 3-inch sterile pads
4. Triangular bandages
5. 1-inch and 3-inch rolled bandages
6. Tweezers and blunt scissors
7. Cotton balls and cotton tipped applicators
8. Antiseptic
9. Sun screen (minimum SPF 15)
10. Calamine lotion
11. Motion sickness pills or patches
12. Aspirin or substitutes
13. Eyewash cup

Rescue Breathing

If a victim is not breathing they must be attended to immediately. Rescue breathing is used to maintain an airway and cause air to flow in and out of the lungs. Rescue breathing should be continued until the victim can breath for themselves or a doctor or other trained person takes responsibility.

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If you believe someone is having a cardiac arrest do not panic. Follow the six simple steps of CPR below and help save a life. Remember, these steps are to be used as a guide and a reminder. Please try to attend a CPR training course offered by the American Red Cross or American Heart Association.

Call 9-1-1.

boating safety course cpr1 graphicCheck the victim for unresponsiveness. If there is no response, call 911 and then return to the person.

How To Recognize Cardiac Arrest:

During cardiac arrest, the heart stops pumping blood, the blood pressure falls to zero and the pulse disappears. Within 10 seconds of cardiac arrest the person loses consciousness and becomes unresponsive. If you shake or shout at the victim, there will be no response.

Sometimes a person in cardiac arrest may make grunting, gasping or snoring type breathing sounds for a couple of minutes. Do not be confused by this abnormal type of breathing.

If a person is unresponsive (doesn’t respond to shouts or shakes) and not breathing (or breathing abnormally) then call 911 and begin CPR.

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Tilt head, lift chin: check breathing.

Position the person flat on their back. Kneel by their side and place one hand on the forehead and the other under the chin. Tilt the head back and lift the chin until teeth almost touch. Look and listen for breathing.

Abnormal Breathing

Remember a person in cardiac arrest may have abnormal breathing for a couple of minutes. This abnormal breathing is called agonal respiration and is the result of the brain’s breathing center sending out signals even though circulation has ceased. The key point is that the abnormal breathing may sound like grunting, gasping or snoring. It disappears in 2-3 minutes. If you see this type of breathing DO NOT delay CPR. The person desperately needs air and only you can provide it.

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Give two breaths.

If not breathing normally, pinch the nose and cover the mouth with yours. Give two full breaths. The person’s chest will rise if you are giving enough air. If the chest does not rise, open the
person’s mouth and check for obstructions in the throat.

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Check pulse.

Put the fingertips of your hand on the Adam’s apple, slide them into the groove next to the windpipe. Feel for a pulse. If you can not feel a pulse or are unsure, move on to the next step.

Checking The Pulse

Checking for a pulse is unnecessary in most situations of cardiac arrest. It is usually obvious when a person is in cardiac arrest and thus checking a pulse is not needed. Furthermore, determining whether a pulse is present is sometimes difficult for individuals. Therefore, if you are unsure about a pulse proceed to the next step.

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Position hands.

Position your hands in the center of the chest between the nipples. Place one hand on top of the other.

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Pump 15 times.

Push down firmly two inches. Push on chest rapidly 15 times.

Pushing on the Chest

In general the chest should be pushed down 1-2 inches. Sometimes you may hear a cracking sound. Do not be alarmed. The sound is caused by cartilage or ribs cracking. Even if this occurs the damage is not serious. The risk of delaying CPR or not doing CPR is far greater than the risk of a broken rib.

Continue with two breaths and 15 pumps until help arrives


Untreated, shock can cause death from a collapse of the cardiovascular system carrying oxygen to the body’s vital organs. The signs of shock may include cold, clammy skin; profuse sweating; a pale color; bluish lips; rapid pulse; and labored or rapid breathing.

To treat shock, lay the victim on their back and cover with blankets or clothing to keep warm. Elevate the feet 8 to 12 inches higher than the head. Do not give the victim anything to eat or drink. Keep the victim comfortable until help arrives.


Control external bleeding by following these guidelines:

  • Place direct pressure on the wound with a sterile dressing or clean cloth.
  • If you do not suspect a broken bone, elevate the injured part above the level of the heart.
  • Apply a pressure bandage to hold the dressing or cloth in place. Wrap snugly over the dressing to keep pressure on the wound.
  • If blood soaks through the bandage, add more pads but do not remove those already in place.
  • Continue to monitor vital signs.
  • Help the victim rest in a comfortable position
  • Maintain normal body temperature
  • Reassure the victim
  • Care for other injuries or conditions


Burns are classified by depth of injury; the deeper the burn, the more severe it is. Treating burns should be done in such a manner as to relieve pain, prevent infection and prevent or treat for shock.

  • First degree burns redden the skin much like a sunburn. Immerse the affected area in cool water or cover it with a cloth soaked in cool water. If necessary apply a dry dressing and cover it with a bandage.
  • Second degree burns form blisters. Treat in the same manner as first degree burns. Do not break or try to remove any burned tissue. Do not apply any kind of antiseptic sprays or ointments. If possible keep the affected area above the victim’s heart. Seek medical treatment as soon as possible.
  • Third degree burns char and destroy tissue. Call for medical help immediately. Treat for shock if necessary and continue treatment as in second degree burns.

Broken Bones

A broken bone injury should be immobilized to prevent further injury. Stop bleeding, if there is any, treat for shock and seek medical attention.


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